Port Hedland ridiculed as ‘lifeless’, ‘punishment’ for visitors

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Tom ZaunmayrNorth West Telegraph
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Akmal Saleh performing in the Pilbara in 2016.
Camera IconAkmal Saleh performing in the Pilbara in 2016. Credit: Louise Allingham.

Port Hedland’s mayor has backed Perth breakfast radio host Lisa Fernandez and comedian Akmal Saleh over an interview in which his town was ridiculed as inhospitable and the people lifeless.

Speaking to Paul Hogan and Lisa Fernandez on 96fm’s breakfast show last week, the prominent Sydney comedian launched a stinging two-minute tirade against the Pilbara town.

Saleh labelled performing in the Pilbara town a punishment, before Fernandez said she only went to Hedland to feel better about herself.

“I was (in Port Hedland) with a few friends and it was dark and scary and intense and a bit smelly place and I thought nothing could be worse than this place, then I went to South Hedland,” Saleh said.

“Port Hedland is the up-market part if you can believe that.

“People are walking around with a look in their eyes like when am I going to die, why am I still here.”

He finished his spiel by pigeon-holing Hedland in with towns where you have to “abide by rules” to avoid having your “head punched in”.

Town of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco said Saleh and Fernandez’ comments were a “spot on” reflection of the attitude people had upon first visiting the town.

“The excessive alcohol consumption, it’s a constant visual issue in South Hedland and it clearly is detrimental to the brand of Port Hedland,” he said.

“For people who have grown up in the city is pretty intimidating to see that face on.

“Ten years ago both towns were about the same but Karratha has done a magnificent job in revitalising their town and we have fallen behind.”

Mr Blanco said he hoped the comments would open people’s eyes to the work needed to fix the town.

Hogan said he did not see why the interview had kicked up so much fuss.

“Port Hedland isn’t exactly on anyone’s bucket list,” he said.

“I’m not saying that Port Headland is the arse end of the world, but I think it might be the last place to fill up.”

Saleh last visited Port Hedland in 2017 as part of his Transparent Australian tour.

Ahead of that show he told the North West Telegraph he loved the Pilbara.

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